Now that spring practices have finished up across the nation, we have some changes to the Preseason Top 25 for college football. We are still a long way away from kickoff, but here is a look at how some of the top teams are doing so far in the spring and what changes we can expect to see as school finishes up later this month.
#1 Florida State Seminoles – Odds: 5/1
Jameis Winston will lead the top team in the nation once things get started, assuming he can stay out of trouble. This years Heisman Trophy winner has been in the headlines lately for a lot of things not related with football, which we’ll have to continue to monitor to see how it affects this team. Nonetheless, the Seminoles are 5/1 favorites to repeat as champions this upcoming season. They’ve lost a few players such as Timmy Jernigan and Lemarcus Mario Williams, but they replaced them, along with others, with the fourth best recruiting class of 2014. The Seminoles were built to make a run in 2014 and it just so happened to spark last year. So this year they should be a challenge for the ACC and the rest of the nation.
#2 Alabama Crimson Tide – Odds: 13/2
Alabama had a lot of issues they needed to address this offseason, after losing a variety of key members from last years team to the NFL. Luckily for them, they boast the best recruiting class in the nation, including 26 high-caliber signees. Ironically, Jameis Winston’s backup, Jacob Coker, is expected to join the Crimson Tide this upcoming season after he graduates from Florida State. Coker will battle with Blake Sims, who went 13-30 for 178 yards in the spring game. The Crimson Tide are ranked #2 in preseason polls, but they sit at 13/2 odds to win the NCAA Championship, which is just slightly below the Oregon Ducks.
#3 Oklahoma Sooners – Odds 14/1
The Sooners are ranked quite high, considering they still have a lot of questions that they are trying to figure out. In the spring game, Trevor Knight was in control as he looks to be the expected starter in 2014. Knight only has experience in one game, which just so happened to be against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The concern for the Sooners could be who is going to join Knight in the backfield, as both Keith Ford and Alex ross are fighting for the top number-one spot on the depth chart at tailback.
#4 Auburn Tigers – Odds: 13/1
One year after finishing at the basement of the SEC, the Auburn Tigers went on a historic ride that saw them playing FSU for the National Championship. Now the Tigers, led by Nick Marshall, will have another year to work on the guys who were a part of the team last year in hopes of making another run at the SEC and National Titles. Greg Robinson is going to be a noticeable missing piece for the Tigers, as he is expected to be drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. However, sophomore Shon Coleman has stepped in and looks to be a worthy replacement. Like Oklahoma, Auburn will also continue looking for their starting tailback, as Cameron Arts-Payne and Corey Grant are both hoping to replace the standout Tre Mason.
#5 Oregon Ducks – Odds: 6/1
Despite being 6/1 favorites to win the 2015 National Championship, the Ducks are currently only ranked at #5 in the nation. However, the new playoff setup that will be in place next season may not benefit any team more than Oregon. The reason that Oregon has missed the title game in recent years has typically been only because of one hiccup. This year, they’ll have the chance that even if they slip up in the regular season, they can still make it count in the playoffs. Oregon may have the most experienced team return this season, including junior Marcus Mariota, who could be a Heisman Trophy Candidate, and five offensive lineman to protect him.
#6 Michigan State Spartans – Odds: 20/1
After winning the Big Ten title last year, the Spartans had a lot of departures and changes on their team that required a large overhaul on defense. Six of the starters from last year have left, which will certainly have an impact on the defense that was among the top in the nation in 2013. Connor Cook will return at quarterback and standout Jeremy Langford will return as tailback. So assuming the Spartans can get things together on defense, their offense will have plenty of experience from last season to continue off of.
#7 Ohio State Buckeyes – Odds: 12/1
Ohio State has the third best recruiting class in 2014, as they landed 23 ranked players. So while they may still be a year away from competing for a National Title, Urban Meyer has this team really rounding into shape. Braxton Miller will return as the highlight player for the offense, but it’s uncertain as to who will be protecting him. Meyer has only named Taylor Decker and Pat Elfein as starters, while the rest of the players are battling it out during spring to get the remaining spots.
#8 Georgia Bulldogs – Odds: 35/1
The Bulldogs have a bit of a drop-off in terms of odds to win the National Championship in 2015, but they have a variety of starters returning that gives them a #8 ranking in the polls. Among those players is Todd Gurley, who could be a lead candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Along with Gurley, they’ll use a dual-tailback system with Keith Marshall, who is returning from an injury. Hutson Mason will take control at quarterback, after starting the final four games of the season last season. The key to Georgia could be their defense, which includes linebackers Jordan Jenkins, Ramik Wilson and Leonard Floyd, all of whom could be All-SEC candidates.
#9 Baylor Bears – Odds: 30/1
Baylor is coming off of a Big 12 Championship, so the target on their backs will be much bigger than in previous years. Bryce Petty will be the starter for a second year as a starter, after playing well in a spread offense after the departure of Robert Griffin III. The Bears did lose leading rusher Lache Seastrunk to the NFL, and it looks like that load could be split between Shock Linwood and Devin Charfin. On defense, Xavien Howard and Chris Sanders will lead a powerful secondary.
#10 South Carolina Gamecocks – Odds: 30/1
Rounding out the preseason top-10 is South Carolina, a team that flirted with National Title hopes last season. This year they’ll have to find a way to replace Conner Shaw, who took over last year and was incredibly productive in the Gamecocks system. They’ll also be missing Jadeveon Clowney, who is expected to be a top pick in the NFL Draft. To replace Shaw, the Gamecocks will rely on Dylan Thompson, and he’ll get help from Mike Davis, who will return after being injured last season. They still have some gaps to fill on defense, especially if they want to make a run at the SEC Championship with a host of other quality teams.
Here is the rest of the preseason ranks and the odds for each team:
# 11 Stanford Cardinal – 33/1
#12 UCLA Bruins – 20/1
#13 LSU Tigers – 22/1
#14 Texas A&M Aggies – 65/1
#15 Wisconsin Badgers – 35/1
#16 North Carolina Tar Heels 100/1
#17 Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 65/1
#18 Iowa Hawkeyes – 100/1
#19 Florida Gators – 50/1
#20 USC Trojans – 60/1
#21 Texas Tech Red Raiders – 200/1
#22 Clemson Tigers – 65/1
#23 Kansas State Wildcats – 75/1
#24 Nebraska Cornhuskers – 75/1
#25 Michigan Wolverines – 75/1